Look, I already know that some people are probably gonna be all up in the comments section protesting how "irresponsible" this article is. I mean, how in the world can I promote anything that has—gasp—petroleum/mineral oil in it?! Don't I know that it clogs up hair follicles? Haven't I heard that it repels moisture? As a naturalista, how can I resort to something so low on the totem pole of hair products and then—gasp again—publicly write about it?
Uh-huh. I hear you. But before you try and cancel me, take a moment to look at the video below. That stunning Nigerian woman right there? On her socials (and YouTube channel), she goes by EfikZara and that outrageously gorgeous Afro? That is all hers, baby. Yeah, and do you see what she's holding in her hand? It ain't Aunt Jackie's or Shea Moisture; it's grease. Good old-fashioned hair grease. As I've been trying to figure out the perfect formula to get the natural hair results that I personally want, EfikZara is someone who has been influential in getting me to return back to what most of us used back in the day, thanks to her videos like "5 BIG LIES The Natural Hair Community LIED About GREASE!!" and "The TRUTH about GREASE + How I Use It To GROW Low Porosity 4c/4b/4a Hair".
Then, once I saw that there are more and more naturalista influencers who are rising up and singing grease's—more specifically, Blue Magic hair grease's—praises (you can check out a few good ones here, here and here), I was like, "Let me make a run right quick and cop me a jar" (which is more like a small tub).
The TRUTH about GREASE + How I Use It To GROW Low Porosity 4c/4b/4a Hair | EfikZarawww.youtube.com
And y'all, I can't believe I left what my hair clearly missed and loves.
Not to diss the commercial—emphasis on "commercial"—hair care community or their findings. But when something works for you, sometimes you need to buck the system and stick with that. Basically, just like Jasmine Saunders, author of "Two Reasons Why Petroleum Is Used in Hair Products", penned at the end of her piece—" If your favorite natural hair products contain mineral oil, and you are happy with the results they produce then there is no reason to stop using them. I would just keep in mind the occlusive nature of mineral oil and structure your hair regimen accordingly." Yes. That right there.
So, are you ready to read why it can't hurt to put a little Blue Magic back into your own hair care regimen? Let's do this.
It’s Inexpensive AF
Again, since I'm going to assume that at least a couple of people in the natural hair care industry are going to read this and not be too happy about this endorsement, when it comes to the (sometimes horrendous) price tag that comes on some hair products, I'll leave specific names out. What I will share is a quote from an article on the topic that stated, "It is estimated that the natural hair care industry was worth $684 million in 2012 and was projected to reach $761 million by the end of 2017." Bottom line—hair care is a business and businesses love to make as much money as possible. Therefore, it shouldn't be shocking that even natural hair care lines would want to do all that they can to put more money into their pockets.
And indeed, what a lot of people who are returning to hair grease are saying is perhaps we were convinced or even "scared" to leave grease alone because while a 12 oz jar of Blue Magic costs me $3.99, I literally have some popular natural hair care items that are $35-40 for a 6-8 oz jar. Not only that, but the latter hasn't worked nearly as well as the former.
So yeah, if there's no other reason to consider grease—or grease again—the second to none price tag would definitely be a very valid one.
If You’ve Got High Porosity Hair, It’s the ULTIMATE Moisturizer
When it comes to length retention, what my own natural hair journey continues to teach me is if you don't know your own hair's porosity, you're probably not going to get (or keep) the inches that you seek. While I will probably do a full article on this at some point, if you're wondering what the difference between low, normal and high porosity hair is, I'll give a brief breakdown. When you have low porosity hair, that means your hair's cuticles are closed which makes it hard for moisture to get into your hair. Normal porosity means your hair gets and keeps moisture fairly well. Then there's my kind of hair; the hair that drinks up moisture with the quickness but two days later will look at me like it hasn't seen water in weeks. This happens with high porosity hair because there tends to be holes in the hair cuticle; this means that those of us who fall into this category have to be hyper-vigilant about keeping our tresses moisturized.
I'm telling y'all, I've tried creams, butters, the LOC method—you name it, and nothing has kept moisture in my hair longer than grease has. I literally wash my hair, deep condition it and while it's damp, apply some Blue Magic from root to tip and style. Afterwards, my hair remains soft and manageable until the next wash day (which for me is seven days later). The reason why is because there are two things that petroleum does for your hair. First, it locks in the moisture that you already have. Second, it prevents any more from getting in. The second point is why a lot of people claim that grease is bad for you. I'll get more into that in a sec.
It’s an Amazing Sealant
If you're someone who believes deep down in your soul that Black women—particularly Black women with 4-type hair—can't grow long hair, please take a moment to watch this video, this video, this video, this video and this video. Other ethnicities (or hair textures) don't have the upper hand when it comes to gaining inches. No matter who you are, you typically grow between ½" to 1" of hair a month. The reason why a lot of us don't see the length that we want is either because 1) our shrinkage makes us think that our hair isn't as long as it actually is or 2) we aren't taking good care of our ends. This is why it is essential that you seal the ends of your hair on a consistent basis.
Sealing is basically one of the most effective ways to prevent the ends of your hair (which is the oldest part of your hair) from becoming dry, brittle and developing split ends (which you can't repair; you always have to cut off). Even if the thought of applying grease to your entire head seems like a no-no to you, at least consider applying it to your ends. Remember, petroleum locks—or seals—in moisture and the more protected your ends are, the easier it will be for you to see six inches of progress by the end of the year.
Grease Isn’t “Bad” for You. It’s All About Using It Properly.
So, why is it that so many people frown upon good ole' hair grease? Why do a lot of them say that all it does is weigh their hair down, leave grease stains and actually result in hair being drier than ever? Don't blame that on the grease; blame that on not applying it properly. Since grease provides a barrier, it's not really the best idea to apply it to dry hair. You will get the best results if your hair is wet, has already been conditioned and you apply a leave-in condition before putting the grease on top of it. All of this might sound like a lot at first (sometimes it feels like it too) but trust me, as your hair dries, it will go from feeling "heavy" to feeling really soft and smooth. You just always have to keep in mind that since petroleum seals, it will keep the moisture that your hair has in, but it will also keep new moisture from penetrating. That's why oiling your hair with grease every day is usually counterproductive. Since your tresses are already dry, the grease isn't doing it much good.
And what about greasing your scalp? Eh. I don't use grease for that but some naturalistas sing its praises for soothing their scalp when they apply it on wash day. My take is to remember that your scalp is skin. If your skin doesn't show out when you apply Vaseline (which is also petroleum) then your scalp probably won't either. Still, I think it would be best to not apply grease to your scalp when your scalp is dry; seems like it would leave more residue than you are bargaining for if you do.
Your Mama (or Auntie) Used It When You Were a Child…Right?
Hmph. I don't know about y'all, but I have some very distinct memories of being a little girl, sitting in front of a stove and getting my hair pressed with some good old-fashioned hair grease. You know what else I recall? My hair having some real length to it too. That's why I think the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" certainly applies here.
Listen, by no means am I saying that you should toss your natural hair products or go on a personal boycott of popular commercial brands. My point is simply that grease IS NOT the devil and if it has personally worked for you in the past, I don't see why you should stop using it now. Because, again, do you see EfikZara's hair in the feature shot? Blue Magic helped to get her there. That's enough for me to add it to my regimen. And I have. And it's been all good on the mane tip ever since. My hair thanks me. My wallet does too.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
7 Essential Oils All Naturalistas Need For Their Hair
10 Things Your Natural Hair Needs In The Winter
These Foods Will Give Your Skin & Hair The Moisture They Crave
Feature image by Getty Images
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Queen Latifah On Her Journey To Self-Acceptance: 'I've Been Trying To Maintain My Freedom To Be Me'
Actress and rapper Dana "Queen Latifah" Owens is defying societal standards by refusing to be confined in a box regarding her personal and professional life.
Owens, who has been a part of the entertainment industry for over three decades, is widely recognized for her empowering songs and the variety of acting roles she has obtained throughout her career, among other things. The list includes Living Single, Set It Off, Chicago --with which she earned an Oscar nomination-- Just Wright, Girls Trip, and most recently, The Equalizer series on CBS.
Owens is also very tight-lipped about her personal life. However, in 2021, The Last Holiday actress showed appreciation to Eboni Nichols, who is reportedly her partner, and their son Rebel after receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award.Since then, Owens has revealed why she doesn't want to be defined as anything but herself and how she maintains her sense of freedom. In a resurfaced video from theGrio Awards, Owens opened up about those topics when she accepted the Television Icon Award for her past contributions
In a clip uploaded on theGrio's Instagram account last week, Owens explained that she often had to fight to be herself because "the world" kept trying to put her in a box based on what society thought a woman should be.
"My whole life, I feel like I've been trying to maintain my freedom to be me. And the world is trying to put these things on me to stop me from being who I am," she said.
Further into the speech, Owens explained that although many would have their own opinion about her from what the media spews out, she would continue to be herself by wearing "beautiful gowns and dresses," playing in the dirt, participating in basketball games with men and loving who she loves because that's what makes her happy.
The Beauty Shop star also added that despite her celebrity status, she would continue to show respect for others because that's who she is as a person and how she was raised.
"So I wear these beautiful gowns and dresses because I want to because that's part of me. I play in the dirt. I play basketball with the boys because that's me,” she stated. "I love who I love because that's me. I love all of you who have supported me. I give you your respect. I don't have to be above you because that's me. I know me."
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